A somewhat related photo involving Korean food — in this case, gamjatang, a type of spicy potato soup. We forgot to bring a camera/phone when we visited the market described below though I’m sure we’ll take a zillion photos in the future.
Our first weekend in Daegu, stir crazy and itching to explore, we rambled along the streets of near our hotel, eventually finding ourselves at an outdoor market. On one side of the street — just a normal sidewalk mind you — were rows upon rows of vendors selling roasted chestnuts, crispy fried mini donuts, pancakes of all kinds, and roasted goodies on sticks. The glorious smell of fried foods permeated the air making us salivate at every corner. There were fruit vendors selling crates of shiny orange persimmons, $8 packages of luscious strawberries, big beautiful boxes of sweet Jeju oranges and plastic liter bottles of what we think was pomegranate juice. And then there were the tables of earthenware bowls filled to the brim with all things spicy, fermented, pickled, and salted — tiny crabs, seaweed, anchovies, kim chi, sea beans — if it could be pickled and put in a jar, it most likely could be found there.My favorite smell came from the roasted sweet potato stand. There, the humble sweet potato was placed into a special sweet potato roaster — something that looked like an old tyme-y pot belly stove or steam punk smoker with a face of tiny little potato-sized drawers for roasting. The stove with its cute little compartments was enough make me giddy with excitement, but the smell of roasted sweet potatoes? Omg the smell is one of the best smells in the world, recognizable from way down the street and Pavlovian in it’s ability to make one’s mouth water. How could something so simple be so exquisitely good? And yet, isn’t that how it always is?
I selected the plumpest of the plump of the sweet potatoes, paid my dollar, and carried my paper-wrapped hot potato in my freezing cold hands like a prized jewel, peeling away at it’s delicate skin from time to time to bite into its steaming hot sweet orange flesh. We discovered a maze of even more market stalls, one tiny little street opening up into building after building of covered food vendors. Holy crap we were in heaven. I nudged Sly about a million times — “what’s that?” “can we try it?” “I wonder what that tastes like.” I had the eyes of a wild woman scanning all the stalls chomping at the bit, deciding what to eat next.
My normal MO when it comes to eating at unfamiliar places is to just find a restaurant/stall/spot where a lot of people are eating. In this case we found a food stand where a bunch of older ladies were sipping soup and talking loudly (I discovered later it may have been more for the Korean drama that was on tv) and decided that this was the spot. We weren’t *that* hungry but one stall over a lady was selling all kinds of stuffed pancakes — egg and scallion, egg with ground pork. egg with anything you could want. The kind old Halmoni spoke to me as if I spoke Korean, but then, realizing that I only spoke food, handed me a sample to try. And with that, we plopped down on the cold bench and ordered several types of pancakes, which she heated up on a well seasoned griddle and served with salty sesame and soy sauce.
“This isn’t even a big market,” Sly said. My head swiveled around to stare at him, eyes popping out of my noggin even more than before. “It’s not?” I squealed. Korean markets: I think this is the beginning of a beautiful gut-busting friendship.